Wednesday, April 26

Brace For Impact.

(Homecoming Quadrilogy - Part III.)
Brace For Impact.

What started out as a night of new beginnings and retribution was turning into another textbook punch in the ear for yours truly. The night was half over and I was still alone; mouth reeking with the familiar, sour taste of rejection and failure. It tastes sort of like an old penny, or a 9-volt battery doused in mustard and poop.

I was all set to call it a night. Cut my losses and try again next year. Preferably in a different school, in a different state or continent altogether, where people communicated in beeps and clicks. Take off this horrid blazer, go home, make myself some toast and sleep until 2pm. Damn.

Every time a camera snapped near me, it was like someone was visually documenting the most pathetic and forgettable four hours of my life. Friendly faces became twisted and gnarled caricatures under the lights, cementing the feeling of loneliness that can only be felt by a wiener teenager smack-dab in the center of a puberty-soaked angst session. The me that I am now hates the me that I used to be, but the old me had no choice but to continue being me until I became the me you know now.

Excuse me, that last line gave me a bit of a nosebleed. Give me a second.

Brace For Impact.

Just when I was ready to leave, Gail walked in and I got my swagger back.

'Gail' was a female friend of mine, like Sadie, that I knew mainly from the bus we rode together. We had partnered up for a few projects in Spanish class, in particular, making a paper mache' pinata. We got to know each other a little more after spending a few long nights together in her bedroom, meticulously dipping newspaper in slop and constructing what could be considered the most terrifying clown pinata ever viewed. Candy or not, this thing was going to scare the hell out of some Mexican children.

She had told me she was bringing some people to the dance and wanted to introduce them to me and my friends. She strolled in with two ladies who were looking for company, or at least that's what she was telling me at the time. We'll call them 'Kim' and 'Charlotte.'

You can't blame me for being hesitant; even a bit scared. So far tonight, my record with mysterious women was 0-2, and I really saw no reason to go for the hat trick of rejection. I needed some insurance as to not go into this alone, so I went and grabbed 'Vinny,' who you remember from the prior 'J. Crew' incident. If something bad was going to happen to me, it was going to happen to him, too. Truth be told, nothing bad ever happened to Vinny, so I was using him as kind of a crude karma shield; a St. Christopher's medal that smelled like french fries and Brute.

Kim was exactly what you want to receive out of a first impression. She was charming and alive, sporting bright-yet-cavernous eyes and high cheekbones. She talked almost exclusively with her hands, and wasn't the least bit superficial. She seemed like a genuinely nice person, wearing a simple black dress with matching simple makeup. Within seconds of meeting her, I could tell that she was going to turn my night around. Heck, I might even make a new friend out of the deal.

Of course, Vinny was thinking the exact same thing for himself. Before I could even squeeze the word 'Howdy!' from my windpipe, Vinny had swept an arm around Kim and led her as far away from me as he possibly could. They were a blip on the radar within seconds.

For the countless time this evening, I stood alone with my jaw to the floor. It was at this point that Gail introduced me to Charlotte, and I got a first impression I will truly never forget.

The first thing that I noticed about Charlotte- or the first thing that anyone with eyes noticed about her that night- was the fact that she was wearing a massive, white neck brace. Her beautiful blue dress sparkled at every angle, her hair was expertly tossed and curled, her makeup was applied with wild teenage precision, and it was all overshadowed by the foam device wrapped tightly around her neck like a medically prescribed scarf.

She was also crying. Hard.

I looked to Gail, an obvious rictus of complete confusion on my face, then looked back to Charlotte and cocked my head to the side. 'Charlotte, this is Ramone,' Gail said, which was my Spanish class moniker at the time. She held out her hand and attempted to say 'Hello, Ramone,' but got choked up somewhere near the second syllable and buried her face into a soaked and tattered piece of Kleenex. I slowly brought my arm back to my side, fairly certain a handshake wasn't in order.

You see, Charlotte had been having a bad week. She was injured in a car accident just days prior, which led to not only the neck brace, but a totaled vehicle. If that wasn't awful enough, the day before the dance, she was savagely dumped by her boyfriend right after buying the very Homecoming dress she was wearing as she stood before me, sobbing and red-nosed. In reality, she was having a far worse night than me, which I thought was impossible up to this point.

Brace For Impact.

I did the only thing I could do. I fled the scene. I had problems of my own; I didn't need to get bogged down with hers. That's what the old me would have done; piss his entire night away talking to someone about some jerk she's just dying to get back together with. I had a lifetime of experience dealing with people in this situation, and I knew that Charlotte was on a rebound so fresh that it was still flopping around on the plate. Not now. Not tonight. I left her and Gail to fend for themselves.

In the meantime, I talked with friends, told a few jokes and settled into a quiet routine. Every few minutes, though, I'd check to see how Charlotte was doing. I wouldn't let her know I was keeping an eye on her, I just wanted to see if she was having a good time. She, of course, was not. Having now been abandoned by both Kim and Gail, I found her sitting alone, on a chair in the middle of the dancefloor, bawling hard and unable to turn her fractured head in any direction. Mascara was everywhere.

I tried to ignore her, I really did. However, every time I saw her, I knew exactly how she was feeling, and it weighed heavy on my conscience. My heart and body started to clash with each other, fighting about what sort of person I was destined to become. My body told me to stick with the plan and give up the soft guy I used to be. My heart was aching to make this girl feel better, even though I didn't have the foggiest idea who she was and whether or not she was clinically insane. Lord knows I wasn't the person to do it, but I knew that nobody else was going to.

Giving in to what I knew was right, I stepped up to the plate for a total stranger, perhaps as some divine retribution for all the crap I was being hit with that evening. I pulled a chair up to Charlotte- again, right in the center of the dancefloor- and we started to talk.

Well, sort of. She couldn't turn her head, so she didn't realize I was there for about 5 minutes. Thinking she wanted to be alone or ignored, I just sat next to her while she wiped her nose on her dress and sobbed. When she finally noticed me, then we started to talk.

Charlotte proceeded to vent and emote all over me. I had heard it all before; the boyfriend, the lack of attention, the secrets and whatnot. I did what I always did; I smiled, nodded and agreed. That was exactly what she needed, and after about 20 minutes of this, I coaxed out her first smile of the night.

In the distance, I caught Vinny and Kim dancing in the corner, laughing and swaying without a care. I secretly fantasized that he was being played like I had earlier in the evening, but to no avail. They couldn't be any happier. That metallic taste started rising up in me again, as my night of becoming a new man was destroyed at the hands of the very person who wanted to change.

For the rest of the night, I stayed close to Charlotte. I got drinks, did anything to stop the crying and retrieved handfuls of Kleenex when I wasn't successful. She continued to call me 'Ramone' right up until midnight, when it was time for everyone to go home. I led her back to where Kim and Gail (and Vinny) were congregated and hugged her goodbye, as she thanked me for being such a good listener.

It was the meanest thing anyone had said to me the entire night.

On the way home, I thought about what I expected from myself, versus what other people expected from me. In my quest for maturity, I almost reverted to my id in a feeble attempt to grow up. In the end, I realized that no matter what I thought I was missing out on, I had made the right choice. Many years from now, people won't remember random men and greasy liars they made out with in corridors and stairwells, but they will remember the guy that drove them home when things got a little too out of hand. It was the role I was destined to play, and I was good at it. My attempts to change were ludicrous and worthy of the karma-like retribution I had received. I wasn't supposed to change.

When I got home, I looked up at the cloud-free, moonlit sky and smiled. My terrible night was over, but I was a better man because of it.

As I put the key into the lock, I could hear the phone ringing inside the house. Knowing that it was almost 1am at this point, either it was someone that I knew, or someone was dead. I rushed in to answer it, mainly to spare myself from getting yelled at when the whole house woke up.


'Hey! It's Vinny! What's up?'

'Well, I just got home and I want toast and sleep. Why?'

Then I heard it. The sound of a Gail's SUV tearing down my street with reckless abandon, waking neighbors and scattering wildlife in its powerful wake. I ran outside in time to see it crank hard into my driveway, side door flinging open. There sat Gail, Vinny, Kim and Charlotte.

'Get in,' said Charlotte.

Tomorrow: Katharine McPhee Watch - Volume 7.
(I'm picking either Kellie or Paris will get booted; am I right?)

Friday: Lost Friday- Clip Show Edition.
(Get all caught up and prepared for the final 4 episodes.)

Monday: Homecoming Quadrilogy - Part IV.
(Show up to see how it all comes predictably crashing down.)

The Books are playing in Milwaukee tonight. You probably don't want to miss that. Tivo your shows and get there.
Sorry dude, I'm going bowling tonight. Big office outing and whatnot.

Let me know how the Books are live, though. I'm interested to see what they do on stage.
You might be better off picking Taylor over Paris. Paris was forgettable, but Taylor really crapped it out.
I've got to stick with Paris or Kellie, just because I know in the past Taylor has been leading the pack when it comes to votes. He's never been in the bottom three, which is saying something considering the talent this year.

Then again, if Taylor gets booted and I snap my season-long perfect streak, I'll buy you a beer.
Make it a Smirnoff Ice and we've got a deal.

By the way, you're great at your craft. You've got me at the edge of my seat.

Admittedly I have a small seat and a large ass, but still...
I've got a case of Smirnoff Ice still in the fridge from 3 months ago that I'll never drink. That shouldn't cost too much to FedEx to Hawaii, right?

Thanks for the ego-fluffing. I was going to run Chapter Four tomorrow, but I didn't want to tear the tender fabric of the Blogosphere by ignoring the joy that is Katharine McPhee Watch.

Especially after last night.
In unrelated news, Michelle Rodriguez will be spending five days in jail after she pleaded guilty for drunk driving.

She had the option to do community service instead but she declined.
I saw that this morning. I suppose if you can stand five days in the clink, it beats the hell out of a billion hours of community service.
You were right about Kellie and while I hate to admit it, I'm sort of happy that you were.

Now the show only has talent.
Yup. Best Top 5 EVER.

Honestly, I have my preferences, but I'll be happy with whoever wins at this point. I've been extremely happy with this entire season.

Just got back from bowling; rocked a 130. Jealous?

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